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Orillia's homeless moved from Lighthouse shelter to local hotel

Concerns about the need to observe social distancing prompted the move; 'It’s amazing to see the community come together,' says Lighthouse official
2020-03-16 Lighthouse JO-001
Lighthouse Soup Kitchen in Orillia offered a new Pop Up Sandwich Station program where clients are given a bagged lunch at the door in light of COVID-19 concerns. As of Saturday night, the shelter's residents were moved to a local hotel where they will reside during the pandemic.

Orillia’s Lighthouse is no longer a haven for the homeless.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all homeless shelters in Simcoe County, including Orillia’s Lighthouse, have moved their residents into local hotels.

Over the last week, concerns mounted about the inability to apply the important principle of social distancing at shelters designed to host a multitude of people.

After discussions between the area shelters, the municipalities, health agencies and the County of Simcoe, it was decided the move was necessary.

“Everyone concluded this was the next best, safest step to take with all the shelters,” said Linda Goodall, the executive director of the Lighthouse.

On Saturday night, Goodall and three other staff members moved some supplies and the 14 Lighthouse residents into an Orillia hotel; the identity of the hotel is not being disclosed.

“The generosity of the hotel has been unbelievable,” said Goodall. “We, as staff, and our residents are just so appreciative of everything they are doing to help the vulnerable in our community. It’s amazing to see the community come together.”

The move could not have happened without the support of the County of Simcoe. Essentially, the county will cover the costs of the hotel rooms.

“We have been in constant contact with the county and they have been phenomenal,” said Goodall.

It’s been a harrowing few weeks for the homeless and those who support them. At a time when people are being urged to maintain social distancing and to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, they don’t even have a roof over their head.

“We’ve worked hard to inform them and keep them up to date,” said Goodall. “I’ve told them as long as they work with us, we will keep them housed.”

Goodall concedes it’s been “a challenging time.” She is grateful for the dedication and hard work of the Peter Street facility’s staff and its legion of volunteers.

“Without question, many of our residents would literally be on the streets without this happening,” said Goodall, who noted the residents have pitched in to help clean and do what they can to help during the crisis.

“They are overwhelmed with the generosity of the community,” said Goodall, noting they were also fearful and anxious about being shunted to the streets. “We did not want that to happen.”

While logistics are still being worked out, the plan is to prepare meals at the Lighthouse; those meals will then be delivered to the hotel rooms. For now at least, each of those rooms are housing two residents.

Goodall said staff also have a room at the hotel, where they have moved some of their necessary supplies. A staff member will be at the hotel 24/7.

The Lighthouse is closed to the public. However, some staff and volunteers, who are being screened first, are working inside during limited hours Monday to Friday.

If you have a question about Lighthouse services, call 705-329-2265, extension 101. 

If you would like to assist with food, grocery store gift cards or gift cards for local restaurants offering takeout are the best way to help, said Goodall. Contact Trish Holloway at trish@orillialighthouse.ca for more information.

If you would like to make a financial donation, please go to orillialighthouse.ca/donate-now. For any financial donations inquiries contact Lynn Thomas at lynn@orillialighthouse.ca.

Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of OrilliaMatters.com
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